Using Analytics to Guide Future Email Content

Updated by Justine Hong

Analytics are critically important to an email program. You can use them to understand how your content is resonating with your audience, if your targeting is effective, and any deliverability issues you might be experiencing.

Switchboard does not require your email program to meet any open or click rate averages to use the platform, but we will require an onboarding period to warm up your domain, and we may move you to a different IP pool based on your domain reputation and engagement rates. To understand average email engagement rates by industry, check out this report from Constant Contact.

The Switchboard Dashboard

When you finish sending an email, you will see a table with the following metrics in Switchboard:

“Processed 257 of 257” is the total number of leads you targeted This does not mean every lead you targeted received your email.

Open Rate

The first percentage you see under Unique Opens is your Open Rate. In the above screenshot, that is 53 unique opens, divided by 188 total emails delivered gives you a 28% open rate. Note that Switchboard filters out machine opens from this statistic.

What does “unique” mean and why do you care? Switchboard shows you the unique opens, meaning it registers only one open per opener, regardless of how many times that person actually opened the email. By providing unique opens/unique open rate, you get a much clearer picture of your email’s success. It’s possible that someone will open an email multiple times – you don’t want each of their subsequent opens to count in this total because it would artificially inflate your engagement rate.

What does this statistic tell you? Open rate is a good way to understand, first and foremost, how your subject line performed. An email with a low open rate can indicate that the subject line you chose did not stand out in the inbox. A prolonged drop in open rates can also indicate that your email is not reaching inboxes in the first place, which can happen if your domain reputation is low..

To understand deliverability issues, refer to our Deliverability 101 resource.

Click Rate

The next metric you will see is your unique click rate. Click rate is measuring how many people click on a link in your email (again, uniquely). Note that this is not “click-to-open rate (CTOR)” which some platforms do provide.

What does this statistic tell you? Click rate is particularly useful in understanding how effective your email content was at engaging your audience and getting them to take action. You don’t just want to get people to open your email; you want them to take the actions you’re asking them to take. Therefore, a high click rate suggests that people found your content compelling enough to take the action recommended. If you see click rates drop, it’s possible your CTA was too challenging for your audience, or your content wasn’t compelling them to take action. Try different topics, email styles, and CTAs to see if that improves your click rate.

Note that Switchboard tracks clicks directly through the links you add to your email. Open data is shared by third parties. So, it’s possible to see click rates that are higher than open rates since we have more trustworthy data about clicks than we do opens.

$ Raised

This metric is straightforward – it is the total number of dollars raised from this particular email. This tracking only works if Switchboard is integrated with your ActBlue fundraising platform. If someone donates multiple times, it will count each donation separately.

What does this statistic tell you? This metric can tell you a few things beyond “how much money did this email raise”. First and foremost, compare how many gifts were given vs the unique clicks from the previous pane – while some dropoff is to be expected, you ideally want as many people as possible who land on the page to give once they’re there. If many people are clicking on your donation page and not donating, that suggests you may want to adjust your ActBlue or other fundraising page language or donation amounts to be more compelling for your audience.

Takeaways: Use a combination of these three rates: open rate, click rate, and donation rate to understand what content you should send to your list. If you see a particular topic consistently generates high open and click rates and leads to large donations, then you should consider devoting more emails to it. If you see a topic consistently underperform, consider trying a new approach to the argument or adding a wider variety of content to your program.

Most importantly: the content/CTAs that are working this week may not work as well next week. Consistently analyzing your engagement rates will alert you to these changes and allow you to adapt, keeping your fundraising rates high and your email list healthy.


This next rate in this table is the unsubscribe rate – the people who subscribed as a result of receiving this email.

What does this statistic tell you? An increase in unsubscribe rate suggests a few things, and it’s possible that one or more of them can be true at once. First, it suggests that particular email didn’t resonate or hit a nerve with a portion of your list. Maybe they didn’t like your approach to a particular topic, or they felt the CTA was too intense. If you see one email with a higher-than-average unsubscribe rate compared to others sent to the same audience, this is possible. A/B testing your message to a smaller segment of your audience can help mitigate this issue.

If you see an increase in unsubscribe rates after adding new leads to your targeting or expanding your targeting parameters (maybe you went from targeting 60 day openers to targeting 90 day openers), then you may see a higher-than-normal unsubscribe rate. This should even out over time.

A note: While unsubscribe rates are not ideal, it is important for someone to be able to  unsubscribe from your email list when they no longer want to receive your content. If they cannot easily do so, they might mark you as Spam. Unsubscribes do not impact your sender reputation, unlike spam rates. You would rather have someone unsubscribe than mark you as spam because spam reports really hurt your deliverability and are harder to recover from.

Finally, if you see a consistent increase in unsubscribe rates when you’re varying your content and not changing your targeting, this can suggest your list is overwhelmed because you are sending to them too often – try reducing your volume. If you’re not sending very often and suddenly start sending emails, it’s also normal to see higher unsubscribe rates as your list adjusts.

Spam Reports

Spam reports are the number of leads who marked your email content as spam when they received it. Note that this number excludes Google because they do not provide spam report data per email recipient. You want this number to be as low as possible. When a lead marks you as spam, it hurts your overall deliverability and can make it harder for you to hit the inbox.

What does this statistic tell you? If you see a consistent increase in spam rates and have not added any new leads to your list, this can suggest your list is getting burnt out and they’re struggling to find your unsubscribe option. Some organizations even put an unsubscribe link at the top of their emails so recipients don’t have to scroll to the footer to take action.

If you continue to see high spam and unsubscribe rates, along with lower than normal engagement rates, you may consider changing your targeting. Learn more about email deliverability and targeting here.

What about Google and Yahoo Spam rates?

The Switchboard team can provide access to a separate email analytics report so you can track Google and Yahoo spam rates for each of your email programs. While this does not give you an email-by-email breakdown of your spam reports, it will tell you your spam percentage by client by day, which can help you narrow down which send caused the problem.

According to Google: Spam rate is calculated daily. To help ensure messages are delivered as expected, senders should keep their spam rate below 0.1% and should prevent spam rates from ever reaching 0.3% or higher

The user-reported spam rate’s impact on delivery is graduated, and rates of 0.3% or higher have an even greater negative impact on email inbox delivery. Even today, user-reported spam rates greater than 0.1% have a negative impact on email inbox delivery for bulk senders.

Beginning June 2024, bulk senders with a user-reported spam rate greater than 0.3% will be ineligible for mitigation

Note that we have no control over user-reported spam and no recourse to mitigate your spam rate with Google or Yahoo.

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